Vaccine Shows Promise In Prevention Of Urinary Infections

Injections 99% Effective Against E. Coli In Mice


A vaccine to prevent urinary tract infections has proved successful in mice and holds promise for people, researchers report today in the journal Science. The advance is also expected to lead to vaccines for other common infections.

The new vaccine, developed by a team from Washington University in St. Louis and Medimmune, a private company in Gaithersburg, Md., must still be tested in humans and so will not be available for at least five years. But other scientists called it the most important advance in more than 20 years of efforts to make a vaccine for urinary infections.

"It's a major breakthrough in vaccine technology, with a lot of potential applications," said Dr. Anthony Schaeffer, chairman of the urology department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., who was not involved in the study.

More than 8 million Americans a year are treated for urinary tract infections, also known as cystitis or bladder infections, at a cost of more than $1 billion.

The illness is most common in women, half of whom have had at least one infection by the age of 30. Two percent to 10 percent of women suffer several bouts a year, and they would be the first candidates for the vaccine, which might later be offered to a wider population, said Dr. Solomon Langermann of Medimmune, an author of the study.

Cystitis is treated with antibiotics, which usually clear it up quickly. The condition can be painful but is rarely life threatening, except in some cases in which it spreads to the kidneys or bloodstream.

Pregnant women and people with diabetes or immune disorders have an increased risk of complications.

The infection occurs when bacteria, usually from the intestinal tract, invade the urinary system. The most common culprit is the bacterium Escherichia coli, or E. coli, a normal inhabitant of the intestines that is harmless as long as it stays where it belongs. But in the bladder, which is normally free of bacteria, E. coli turns destructive.

Injected into mice, which were inoculated with E. coli nine weeks later, the vaccine led to a 99 percent reduction in the number of bacteria in the bladder, compared with a group that were exposed to the bacteria but not vaccinated.

The vaccine is now being tested in monkeys, and the researchers said they hoped to begin trials in people next year.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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